How Childhood Has Changed
Not so long ago, the way children were playing was much different than these days. Children used to spend most of their free time outside, riding bikes, running around, playing hide and seek, engaging in sport activities and building forts. They used to relay on their imagination in order to create their own form of play, which didn’t require expensive gadgets or constant parental supervision.
However, today’s children reach for electronic devices, particularly cell phones and tablets, from the moment they can hold an object in their hands. Most of them, although not yet able to communicate by reading and writing, some of them even speaking, are capable to open apps, turn pages in e-books, browse through and play videos on Youtube, and even navigate their way to and through the App Store.
This is mind-blowing and can be a little scary for the parents, who are constantly asking themselves how young is too young, when is it the right time to introduce children to smartphone or tablet, and when should they buy them their own.
Children under two years shouldn’t be exposed to electronic gadgets
Just because a child is able to hold a gadget, likes to push buttons and watch videos, does not mean that he or she is ready to be introduced to a smart phone or a tablet. Experts from AudioReputation.com are agreeing that children, who are younger than two, should not use or be exposed to electronic devices, because by this age, the brain develops better through free form play and human interaction. This kind of interaction, touch, listening to parents’ voice, and playing with them, helps in building pathways in their brain that help children to learn how to bond emotionally with other people. Yet, by age three, a lot of toddlers are already active media users.
Experts are suggesting that there is no “magical” number when it is talked about what is the right age to introduce a child to smart phone and tablet, because every child is unique and different, and more important is that parents do it in a supervised environment, focus on an age-appropriate, educational content, and limit the time child spends in front of the screen.
As already stated, in terms of introducing to electrical devices, child can be ready sooner or later, but it is very important that it is done in a supervised environment, so parents can control that a child is engaging in primarily learning activities.
Do you know what your child is doing online?
Parents should focus on educational content rather than on an entertaining one because their child can benefit more from them. This kind of media content uses strategies such as repeating an idea, practicing memory, presenting images and sounds that capture attention, which improve visual-spatial capabilities, increase concentration and attentional ability, reflexes and reaction times, and the abillity to identify details among clutter. Parents can help their child get more out of a time spent in front of the screen by sharing in the experience, in terms of asking questions about the game child is playing and focusing child’s attention on different and important aspects of the content.
Besides being educational it is important that the app child is using, and the content to which he or she is exposed is age-appropriate. It is of a great significance for parents to focus on the content and message when they choose age-appropriate media, since it really matters what a child watches and plays. To do so parents can look for an age range listed on the app, keeping in mind what their child can handle, and according to that make a choice of an app.
Although supervision is, as mentioned, substantial and recommended, parents can’t all the time watch over their child’s shoulder. To avoid child opening an app that it wasn’t downloaded for him or her, or clicking to an in-appropriate YouTube video, the useful strategy would be for parents to set up security locking features on all the devices, so the child is allowed to enter only child-friendly and parent-approved apps and sites.
Today children rely on the smartphones and tablets for the majority of their education and entertainment, but how much time in front of the screen is too much?
Experts recommend no more than a half an hour per sitting for a four to five-year-old, and no more than an hour per sitting for a six to seven-year-old, because too much screen time can result in child’s addiction to a smartphone and a tablet, and studies show that there are more and more three and four-year-old that are already addicted.
Struggling with pressure of every day’s life such as long working hours, home duties, traffic jams, school, bad economy, community lives, etc., parents of today rely severely on communication, information, and transportation technology to make their lives easier, faster and more efficient. In accordance to that they more and more use smart devices as digital babysitters, keeping their children temporarily occupied and quiet.
Smartphone and Tablet Screen Time: Good or Bad for Kids?
Parenting can behard and sometimes just getting a free hour to prepare a meal can be impossible, that’s the reason why to some parents popping a tablet or a smartphone in their child’s hands is understandably tempting. But the question is whether something that so easily calms a child is too good to be true?
Experts are emphasizing that parents should not use their smart phones in order to easily calm down their child and keep him or her quiet in line at the store, in the car, or in similar situations where they need to keep their child occupied, otherwise he or she will expect the smart phone time and won’t be satisfied when he or she doesn’t get it, which may result in tantrums. Allowing that a screen time becomes the main method to calm and distract the child, will result in him or her not being capable to develop internal mechanisms of self-regulation.
Thus, it is important to limit child’s use of electrical devices and make it in educational purposes. Parents should allow their child to use smart phone and tablet before another activity that he or she enjoys such as before play date or going to the park, but not before going to bed or doing chores, because he or she will more willingly hand over the gadget, if he or she is aware there is something fun to switch over to.
As the child gets older, parents may allow more freedom, by using a gradual release model, which suggests allowing the child more time with the smart phone or tablet as he or she proves that he can handle it and responsibly use it.
When is the right time for their own smart phone?
Although experts wouldn’t recommend buying a smartphone or tablet for a child until he or she is at least between the ages of eleven and thirteen,on average, children are getting their first smartphones around the age of ten, and even sooner. Experts are agreeing that age is going to trend even younger, because parents don’t like and are getting tired of giving their smartphones to children to play. Similarly, as for introducing children to gadgets, a child’s age is not so important as how much is his or her responsible or mature.
It is important for the parents, when they are deciding to buy their child a smart phone, to determine does their child really need it and is he or her ready for this kind of responsibility.
When deciding to buy a smart phone to a child, parents should:
- Set the limits for digital device usage and make sure that their child understands and respect limits
- Be sure that the primary cause is that their child needs to get in touch with them in case of an emergency
- Be sure that their child I s aware that he or she can’t use the gadget when it is inappropriate, like during classes
- Be sure that their child knows and understands responsible smartphone behavior:
- Who is safe to communicate with
- What content he or she can share and distribute
- Where they can go online (app that you approved)
- Why are these rules important
Children today most of the time for playing use technology and gadgets, and thus limiting their creativity and imaginations, but also limiting movement and straining of their bodies necessary to achieve optimal sensory and motor development. The rapidly advancing technology and their constant exposure to it affects children’s physical and psychological health, as well as their behavior which is more and more detected, but not yet enough understood, by health and education systems. Child obesity and diabetes are related to technology overuse, along with ADHD, autism, coordination disorder, developmental delays, unintelligible speech, learning difficulties, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. What should parents bare in mind is that too much time spent in front of the screen and not enough on other activities, such as reading, creatively playing, and having a face to face interaction with other children, will result in making children even less prepared to thrive in a new world of technology. However, children who are allowed to use these gadgets also greatly benefit from it in terms of problem solving, memory exercising, language skills, etc. if used appropriate and in supervised environment. Balance is the key.